PASADENA—The hype built and the stage set, promises of change were thick in the holiday air.
As the UCLA Bruins left the field following their 31-10 defeat at the hands of the Stanford Cardinals, the all-too-familiar script of the 2014 season reached its conclusion.
Coming off their 38-20 drubbing of crosstown rival USC, Friday’s game presented the eighth-ranked Bruins an opportunity to crown themselves champions of the PAC-12 South.
Instead, the Rose Bowl crowd were witness to an early conclusion to UCLA’s late-season charge, losing in embarrassing fashion to a Stanford team that the Bruins can’t seem to figure out.
If UCLA finds a way to win the game, the week would be spent preparing for second-ranked Oregon, an opportunity for UCLA to put itself right in the thick of the NCAA’s inaugural College Football Playoff.
Instead, the Bruins (9-3) will wait and see where they’ll fall in the section of bowl game opponents.
The loss solidified an 0-6 record in contests against conference titans Stanford and Oregon in the three-year careers of head coach Jim Mora Jr. and quarterback Brett Hundley. Though UCLA can claim ownership of Los Angeles, a defining national moment was denied to both player and coach.
The Cardinals dominated the Bruins in all phases of the game, posting four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more, and proving a constant menace for Hundley, who eventually left the game with an injured right hand.
In what is likely his final home performance for UCLA, Hundley, the school’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns, posted the third-worst passing game of his career, throwing for only 146 yards on 32 attempts.
Expected to declare for April’s NFL draft, Hundley participated in Senior Day activities, even leaving the stadium with his locker placard. Instrumental in the turnaround of a once-toiling program, Friday’s loss was a sad conclusion to the quarterback’s Rose Bowl legacy.
While the Mora’s own UCLA story is unlikely to be at its conclusion, the loss has thrown the production of a sequel featuring national title contention into question.